Cloudworks from a CoP perspective

Yesterday i attended the virtual fieldtrip from the CP Square community which was on the Cloudworks initiative.  Grainne Conole, as “expedition leader” gave us a tour around the isle of cloudworks. Yeah, really tropical :) , as Cloudworks was described as:

“an island for sharing, discussing & finding learning and teaching ideas and designs.”

The sharing of teaching ideas and designs is the site’s strategy, therefore the site functions as a big hub of lots of emergent CoP’s evolving around the shared interest in teaching and learning design. I wondered if the technology would also be interesting to be used in other contexts.

So, what are the clouds being used for?

- Events: conferences and workshops

- Discussion: flash debates, hot topic that are people interested in in debating

- Eliciting expertise and open reviews

- Aggregating resources

As an example of a cloud being used for events or workshops, you can have a look at the cloud made for the fieldtrip. I like the way these sites are being set up. You might want to compare the concept with a wiki, in a sense that it is easy to start a topic and add your content. Yet, clouds have added value in their social approach around this content. You can discuss the content, add stuff or activities to it. The link section suggests that it is also a way to organize content. That is the part that i love the most. I truly believe that knowledge is always embedded in its social context. People that are familiar with the subject know what content is of value for it. For the visitor this information now presented in its context. I wonder how the content management is being handled, is there one big repository?

For this example of the cloud being used for announcing and discussing events, i would have expected some sort of “i attend” functionality so you can see who is going to be there.

A use of clouds that has become very popular according to Grainne, are the so called “flash debates” (see example). This is the use of a cloud for discussing a topic. Looks real similar to a discussion board or blog posting to me. But i guess the difference is that clouds are sort of part of the network, its centralized and the cloud is presented as a social object within the network. This brings me to a great quote from Jyri Engeström, which was presented as the theoretical background for the design of the site.

“Social networking makes little sense if we leave out the objects that mediate the ties between people (Engeström, 2005)”

So, concluding, the Cloudworks initiative looks real interesting. I can see its possibilities for use in organizations for sharing, discussing and finding ideas and content in a general (KM) perspective. At Stoas, we have done something similar using Sakai and its sites. We use it for projects and to discuss specific topics. From first sight the cloudworks seem to make more specific use of web 2.0 services like eg Twitter and all is presented from a social networking perspective. I would love to experience the actual use of cloudworks for facilitating CoP’s and the flow of knowledge in organizations. I wonder if the technology will become available as open source software, this will make it possible to add designs to the system and to install it behind firewalls (still a big thing for corporate organizations).

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